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Jammin' On Jazzmasters

The year 1966 was quite a time to be alive if you were a music fan! The Beatles battled The Supremes, The Four Tops, and the Rolling Stones for supremacy at the top of the charts, and teenagers across the USA were starting garage bands left and right. Music was in the air, and the American rock and roll revolution had kicked into full swing after being jumpstarted by the British Invasion. It was also a banner year for the Fender Jazzmaster! Though Fender's first offset-bodied guitar never really took off with its intended audience--East Coast jazz snobs were still a little leery of solid-body guitars with sleek, futuristic designs--it found a whole new audience on the West Coast after The Ventures' rhythm guitarist, Don Wilson, adopted it as his main guitar in the early sixties (HERE is a cool clip of Don playing his Jazzmaster on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show).

By the mid-sixties, the surf craze had reached its peak, and the Jazzmaster had reached its first zenith of popularity. Surf music may seem like a period-specific novelty now, but back in the day surf music rivaled Motown and rock music in popularity, due in no small part to the captivating sound of the Jazzmaster.

Riding a New Wave

Of course, all waves must crest eventually, and when surf music's popularity waned, so did the Jazzmaster's; so much so that by the time the mid-seventies rolled around it was easy to score one for less than a hundred bucks in a second-hand shop (ah, to have a time machine and a handful of c-notes...). Because these bargain-bin prices made the Jazzmaster so accessible to starving artist types, it quickly became a favorite of trendy new wave and punk guitarists like Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell of the band Television and a young bespectacled English songwriter named Elvis Costello. Costello gave the Jazzmaster its first big moment in the limelight since the surf rock craze by posing on the cover of his landmark 1976 debut album "My Aim is True" with his beloved main ax, a Jazzmaster of indeterminate vintage that had been refinished with furniture varnish!

Despite this brief moment in the spotlight during the late seventies, the Jazzmaster was discontinued in 1980. During its brief disappearance, the Jazzmaster attained an unimpeachable air of underground cool. If you toted an old Jazzmaster, it signified that you probably had listened to all the right obscure records, and that you were on the cutting edge of music. Its status as a cult guitar steadily grew until it exploded in popularity during the heyday of the indie rock explosion in the early nineties when hip, trendsetting guitarists who grew up on Television and Elvis Costello saw them hanging in pawn shops and, like their idols, scored them on the cheap.

Suddenly, the sound of the Jazzmaster was inescapable. On your local college radio station, you could hear Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth use them to create pure aural madness on tracks like "Expressway to Yr Skull." Or, you might catch a Dinosaur Jr video on MTV and see J Mascis prove that being an indie rocker doesn't preclude one from being enshrined in the pantheon of shred gods. If you lived across the pond, you could also hear dream-pop auteur Kevin Shields create beautiful walls of undulating noise on My Bloody Valentine's landmark shoegaze album Loveless, a record that showcased his signature "glide guitar" technique--which he accomplished with the Jazzmaster's vibrato unit (Wildwoodians, if you haven't checked this record out, do yourself a favor and listen--it's a psychedelic tour de force that utilizes all sorts of interesting guitar techniques that come from way outside the "rock" tradition). The list could go on and on, but for brevity's sake, we'll just leave it at this: the Jazzmaster had finally found a home, thirty years after its release.

Jazzmaster Tone Explained, Once and For All

This '66 Jazzmaster pays tribute to the sixties pawn shop specials that our indie heroes used to rewrite the book on rock music, and we believe that they embody their myriad aesthetic and sonic delights with exceptional accuracy. With their matching headstocks, cooler-than-the-other-side-of-the-pillow paint jobs, and bound fingerboards, they evoke the iconic look of 1966. Furthermore, they capture the classic signature tone of the Jazzmaster in an especially inspiring way.

Speaking of which, let's address the elephant in the room: what exactly makes a Jazzmaster sound like a Jazzmaster? More importantly, why does this '66 Jazzmaster provide such a sterling example of Jazzmaster tone? Well, it has to do with the inimitable alchemy between the floating vibrato and the oft-imitated, never-duplicated sound of the Jazzmaster's flat-pole pickups. Though they are often mistaken for P-90s or humbuckers, Jazzmaster pickups are a completely unique design. They have flat, wide poles with lots of surface area, which gives them fatter bass response and more robust midrange while maintaining the clarity that Fender single-coils are known for--which makes sense, given that they were originally designed to be used for jazz!

This thick frequency response interacts in an inspiring way with the sonic idiosyncrasies caused by the design of the bridge. The Jazzmaster bridge was originally built to give players maximum percussiveness, clarity, and articulation on the front end of their notes. It accomplished this in spades, but the geometry of the bridge also caused the guitar to lose a little bit of body at the beginning of the note. So, Jazzmasters have a clear, focused, bright initial tone that thickens up and becomes lush and full almost immediately as the note sustains and blooms.


Brand Fender Custom Shop
Model2021 Collection 1966 Jazzmaster - Lush Closet Classic
Finish ColorAged Charcoal Frost Metallic
AgingLush Closet Classic
Finish TypeNitrocellulose Lacquer
Weight8.00 lbs.
Body WoodAlder
Neck WoodRiftsawn Maple
Neck Shape'62 Jazzmaster
Neck Dimensions.820 1st - .890 12th
FingerboardAAA Rosewood
Fingerboard RadiusCompound 7.25"-9.5"
Nut MaterialBone
Frets21 47095 Medium Vintage
Pickups2 Hand-Wound Jazzmaster Flat-Pole
Controls1 Volume, 1 Tone, 1/2 Blender, 5-Way
BridgeVintage-Style Jazzmaster
CaseHardshell Case

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Serial Number: CZ556761

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